Is Sportsmanship Gone?

This is an older draft of a piece I did right after we POV’ers collected our thoughts regarding Pitt athletics and sent it via email and in hard copy letter form to the AD.

“Sports is a moral undertaking because it requires of participants, and it schools spectators in the appreciation of, noble things – courage, grace under pressure, sportsmanship.”

~ George Will

In our Pitt POV letter to the Pitt Athletic Department sent last week one of the suggestions we fans made was this:

“Bring a feeling of sportsmanship back to Heinz and Pitt fans. As it is if one acknowledges a great play by an opponent he gets screamed at and degraded by other Pitt fans. Perhaps a small video about civility/sportsmanship would be a constant reminder. Maybe a 30-60 second video about Pitt’s history of the opponent? Something to acknowledge our football past with other school we are playing that day- Notre Dame, Penn State, Navy, WVU, etc. but also all opponents.  Maybe a Football alumni in a Public Service type video urging civility and sportsmanship among attendees?”

I feel very strongly about this issue and I’ll tell you why. It isn’t because I come from a different generation than most Pitt fans do – I’m 65 and attended Pitt starting back in 1974 – so I’m probably older than most but then again I’m younger than some also. It is because it has gotten to the point where it just isn’t that enjoyable to go to the games in person any longer. Don’t get me wrong – the tailgating is great and seeing old friends is also. But sitting in a seat surrounded by hundreds of loud, vile and oft times drunken idiots screaming not only at the day’s opponent and their fans, but also our own players and fans is killing what is left of my patience.

Let me give you some examples of how Pitt fans eat their own. These might be older examples but I’ve been told of some more recent ones – but because they aren’t first person I’ll use these.

I got to know Bill Stull’s father through The Pitt Blather when I was writing on there. We’d exchange emails during the off season and try to see each other once or twice at games. Not great friends but friendly acquaintances. His son Bill became our starter in 2008 and had a pretty rough time of it with only a 57% completion rate with 9 TDs to 10 INTs that season. However, LeSean McCoy ran roughshod over our opponents with 1,488 yards and we ended up with a 9-4 record (that we would kill for now.)

That year Pitt fans turned on Stull with a vengeance because, most probably I feel, he wasn’t Tyler Palko and they couldn’t give him much credit at all – but that was understandable as he was a hand-it-off QB primarily.

Then going into the 2009 season that negative feeling about Stull stuck with the fans no matter what he did out on the field as a senior starting QB. I clearly remember us going to the UCONN game that season – Pitt was 4-1 at the time and Stull had been playing lights out: 77/126 (61%) for 988 yards (13 YPC) with 11 TDs to 1 INT which was good for a great 154.20 QB rating.

Yet as I was discussing our plans to watch some of that game with Mr. Stull he asked if we could meet in the upper deck rail area so we did. After a bit I asked him why and he said,” Because no matter what Billy does people scream insults (things) at him… and, dammit, I just don’t want to hear it anymore.

Don’t believe it? I went back down to the lower level for the 2nd half , listened more closely and heard exactly what he was talking about. He wasn’t the only parent who experienced this.

Back around the same time I asked Pat Bostick, SR why his wife didn’t attend Pitt’s home games and he said virtually the same thing “She can’t stand the things the fans say about Pat so she stays home and listens on the radio.

Two true examples about two Pitt kids who gave their best out on the field, bled Blue and Gold, yet got crapped on by so-called Pitt fans regularly. Stull was 18-7 as a starter (or games where he took the majority of snaps) and if you ask Pitt fans about him today the majority still sneer at the mention of his name.

And we all know what Pitt fans feel about QB Tino Sunseri…

The above is incivility by fans toward Pitt’s own players – need we talk about what Pitt fans do with the opponents and the opponent’s fans? Here is perhaps the worse example of all…

We all remember Pat Narduzzi’s first big win against Penn State at Heinz back in 2016. I was at the game watching most of the 2nd half from the press box. When the game was over I started down the ramps with three older couples who were Penn State alumni. We were having a nice conversation about the game when all of a sudden running down behind us were about 10 drunken Pitt fans (from students to older men) who stopped specifically to yell obscenities directly into these peoples faces – older people who were being very gracious in their congratulations to me, a Pitt fan, and for our players for how well Pitt played to win.

I slammed one guy up against the wall and he ran off – still yelling sick crap over his shoulder. In 61 years of being a Pitt fan (yes, from birth) at that moment I felt damned ashamed to be associated with Pitt sports.

It still happens and has made it so I hardly want to drive up and attend games any longer.

Yes, I’m old school. I still value the efforts people put out to accomplish something special, most certainly if it has an affect on my enjoyment of their efforts and especially also if they are student/athletes. I applaud when an opponent’s player makes a great play out on the field; not just a touchdown or whatever, but when a kid does something athletically remarkable I believe he should hear appreciation from the fans of both schools.

Isn’t this really what makes sports all worthwhile? Isn’t the fact that we want to attend games in person, or to watch and listen to them if we can’t be there, and then take the time to discuss those games and the players who busted their asses during the matches so that we can cheer them on and have fun ourselves, proof that we care?

But how many times do we hear and read about how the ‘who, what, when and where‘ reasons Pitt had the lost the game without ever taking the time to look and see things from another point of view and acknowledge that the other team practiced and played just as hard, or harder, to get their victory? It’s not unreasonable folks. Let’s give credit where it is deserved. That is what mature and thinking adults do. We try our best see things as they are, not just how the we want them to be…

It sure as hell should be what we do – and if it isn’t that way for you personally then I pity you for continually slamming that sharp “poor sportsmanship” stick into your eye then whining so loudly about how much it hurts. Doing that at a game ruins the true fan’s enjoyment of the sport being played at the time. Just please stay home, crawl into your shell, and bitch to yourself about how bad life treats you. Otherwise why would you do what you do over and over again? If crapping on others is the best you can think of in how show your appreciation of Pitt’s teams, then you really are showing your true self, and that’s just too bad.